The Black Garden: Stuck in a loop

English Daily #2
The Black Garden (Alexis Pazoumian, France/Belgium, 2024), Yerevan Premiere, 11-7 17:00 House of Cinema Grand Hall

As a study in how conflicts can constantly recreate themselves, this mournful documentary by Alexis Pazoumian shows a country and people trapped in time. As if looped in the endless grooves at the end of a melancholic vinyl record, The Black Garden carves out the many cycles of violence and anguish that citizens of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) have endured over the last years. The film fittingly describes itself as an epilogue of sorts, and plays like a forlorn reflection on these years that feel like eons.

Even the awe-inspiring vista’s of Yerevan, as seen from the spectacular Cascade, turn into a painful mirror when two young survivors of the conflict gaze over the city and long for a place they can’t return to. This heart-rending loss is enhanced by an impressive score that finds the exact kind of pathos to transform this film into more than just a recording of grief. Based in Paris, but of Armenian descent, Pazoumian’s outsider perspective and keen eye give the film an important extra layer. The Black Garden is also a reflection of what is sadly a byproduct of a nation living with the daily realities of war: children learning to wield weapons, singing and dancing to patriotic war songs. The enemy is a constant presence for them and takes away the possibility to think of other stories, dream other dreams, or envision other worlds. The only thing they still have is their black garden, even though they can’t physically inhabit it anymore.

Hugo Emmerzael